WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON!
This NFL season hasn’t gone the way Bucs fans, or anyone else in the football world for that matter, had expected. The preseason Super Bowl favorite Tampa Bay Buccaneers are now 3-5 and showing no signs of righting the ship. But it’s not just them. There are plenty of NFC teams who were considered “Super Bowl contenders” that are struggling this year. The Packers are 3-5. The Cardinals are 3-5. The Rams are 3-4. The 49ers are 4-4.
The Falcons now lead the South at 4-4. The Vikings lead the North at 6-1. The Seahawks lead the West at 5-3. And the East might be the best division in football with the undefeated Eagles leading at 7-0 and the Cowboys and Giants both at 6-2. The Commanders are even 4-4.
Yeah, the NFC is weird right now.
Things are strange in the AFC as well. There are the expected division leaders like the 6-1 Bills in the East, the 5-2 Chiefs in the West and the 5-2 Titans in the South. But the Ravens lead the North at 5-3 over last year’s Super Bowl contender the Bengals who are 4-4. The biggest surprises are the Jets and Dolphins who are both 5-3 right now. That’s right, the Jets.
Strange, but true.
In any case, the Bucs are 3-5 after that Thursday night loss to the Ravens. Tom Brady is two games below .500 for the first time in his career. They fell to second in the NFC South now trailing the Falcons. It was their third straight loss and fifth loss in their last six games. Brady hasn’t lost three in a row in 20 years and he’s never lost five of six games in any stretch of his 23-year career. The really bad news is that there’s no light at the end of this tunnel. Todd Bowles says “that’s the team they are right now and they should own that record“. We’ll see how the team responds to that on Sunday.
Meanwhile, it’s the Wednesday following a Bucs game which means it’s time to break down what happened, put it behind us and move on to next week. So let’s take a look at the “Good, Bad & Ugly” from the Bucs Week 8 matchup against the Ravens and see what went wrong.
The First Quarter
Well, it was a strong start at least. The Bucs started on defense where they held Baltimore to a 4-play/23-yard opening drive forcing a punt. Then Jaelon Darden muffed the punt when he was ran into by Bucs teammate Dee Delaney who wasnt paying attention to where he was on the field. The Ravens recovered giving them the ball at the Tampa Bay 6-yard line. However, the Bucs D held strong again and forced a field goal.
When the offense finally got the ball, they marched down the field on an 8-play/75-yard drive resulting in a Leonard Fournette touchdown. The defense forced a quick three & out and the offense went 50-yards in 10-plays to kick a field goal. They ended that opening quarter with a 10-3 lead and all was looking good in Tampa Bay.
Or so we thought.
The Rest of the Game
After taking that 10-3 lead, the 2022 Bucs offense showed up and that’s when things started going downhill. Fast. A 3-play/6-yard drive. A 3-play/2-yard drive. A 6-play/24-yard drive. A 3-play/-1 yard drive. And a 4-play/24-yard drive. That’s right folks. Five straight drives consisting of 19 plays, gaining just 2 first downs and 55 total yards. The worst part is that they only took about 6:45 off the clock, which means the defense didn’t have much time to rest in between series. And that is part of the reason for their second half collapse.
While Tampa’s offense was sputtering out, the Ravens offense was revving up. After being held to just 3 points in the first half, they exploded with a 24-point second half. Their second half possessions were as follows:
9 plays, 77 yards, 4:53 T.O.P., 5 first downs, touchdown
11 plays, 80 yards, 6:52 T.O.P., 5 first downs, touchdown
9 plays, 83 yards, 5:31 T.O.P., 5 first downs, touchdown
5 plays, 49 yards, 2:42 T.O.P., 1 first down, field goal
That’s four straight drives consisting of 34 plays, 16 first downs, 289 total yards and 24 points. The bad part is that they kept the Bucs defense on the field for nearly 20 minutes during those drives. That was ultimately their downfall. The Bucs offense did manage a 9-play/67-yard drive and an 11-play/75-yard that resulted in 10 points late in the fourth quarter, but by then the game was already over.
Devin White’s Play
Let me make this clear before I tear into this, I’m not blaming the Bucs defensive problems solely on White. With that being said, he’s SUPPOSED to be a defensive team captain. He’s SUPPOSED to lead by example. He’s SUPPOSED to be one of the top linebackers in the league. He was none of those things in this game. In fact, he hasn’t been those things since Week 2 in New Orleans when he won NFC Defensive Player of the Month for September. Missed assignments. Missed tackles. A lack of effort. A lack of accountability. A lack of responsibility. Poor decision making. Just really bad football. ProFootballFocus.com gave him an overall grade of 44 and a run defense grade of 34 for this game. They currently have him ranked 142nd out of 153 off-the-ball linebackers so far this season. His missed tackle rate is almost 15%, which ranks him near the bottom of the league. So I’m not picking on the dude, it’s just facts! He’s got to start playing like the #5 pick that he was or this defense will continue to struggle.
BIG BUCS OF THE DAY
OFFENSE : LG Nick Leverett
With starting left guard Luke Goedeke supposedly injured, Leverett got the start in this game and played well. He played with a lot more confidence and aggressiveness than Goedeke has all season and I personally feel like he earned the starting nod for next week against the Rams as well. In fact, Goedeke shouldn’t start again this season in my humble opinion. Leverett should be the guy moving forward.
DEFENSE : OLB Shaq Barrett
He was FINALLY having a “Shaq-like” game until he tore his achilles early in the 3rd quarter. He only finished with 4 tackles and 1.5 sacks, but he was harassing Lamar Jackson the whole game. Unfortunately, he is now lost for the season with a confirmed torn achilles injury.
BAD BUCS OF THE DAY
OFFENSE : RB Leonard Fournette
Once again, the Bucs run game was nonexistent, especially with Fournette in the backfield. He finished with 9 carries for 24 yards, averaging just 2.9 yards per carry. On the flip side, rookie running back Rachaad White had 4 carries for 19 yards, averaging 4.8 yards per carry. For some reason, Lenny just isn’t playing the kind of football that he’s capable of and White looks like the better all around back. We’ll have to see how that plays out in the coming weeks if this trend continues.
DEFENSE : LB Devin White
I beat him up earlier in the “UGLY” part of this story, but his play (or lack of) warrants even more criticism. Even though he finished this game with 10 tackles, he was caught loafing and out of position a number of times, which has been a big issue with him over the last month.
Todd Bowles defended White saying “I don’t think there’s a drop off“, but the tape doesn’t lie. Even Buccaneer legend Warren Sapp chimed in on social media with some film evaluation of his own on a few of White’s plays from this game and he said he’d “strip that letter “C” off his chest“. Again, I’m not picking on him or putting all the blame on him. However, the kind of play that he’s displayed over the last few games has been unacceptable and inexcusable for any player, let alone someone who’s supposed to be a leader on this team.
THE WRAP UP
This game summed up the Buccaneers season so far pretty well. Lack of consistency. Lack of focus. Lack of production. Lack of effort. Lack of preparation. Lack of urgency. Lack of accountability. Lack of football IQ. Just an all-around lack of good, smart football. It’s mind-boggling. How can an entire team, this talented, suddenly forget how to play football all at the same time? No, seriously? How? I know injuries have played part in it, but they’re not the only team going through them. There are far less talented teams battling through injuries who are playing much better football and have better records than the Bucs right now. Does it come down to coaching? Is it playcalling? Is it simply poor execution? Is it all of the above?
It’s not just that they’re losing games. It’s how they’re losing games. It’s who they’re losing games to. I don’t believe in that “any given Sunday” crap. Good teams don’t lose to bad teams. Period. Good teams win the games they’re supposed to win and compete in the games they’re not. The Bucs are not a good football team right now. At this point, I’m not sure they can be. If the season ended today, they’d have the 7th pick in the draft.
Tampa Bay got dominated in this game despite the 27-22 score. The Ravens ran 74 plays and the Bucs ran 62 plays. The Ravens had 453 total yards and the Bucs had just 349 total yards. The Ravens had 231 rushing yards and the Bucs had 44 rushing yards. The Ravens had 27 first downs and the Bucs had 20 first downs. The Ravens had the ball for 38:23 and the Bucs had it for just 21:37. The Ravens had five players who ran the football and all five averaged more than 4.8 yards per carry. The Bucs had 20 missed tackles as a team in this game. TWENTY! They only had three players (David, Dean, Gholston) who were rated 65 or higher by ProFootballFocus.com. The offense can’t convert third downs or score touchdowns in the redzone. The defense can’t stop the run or get off the field on third down. They haven’t forced a turnover in 4 games. The offense has scored more than 22 points just once and that was against the Chiefs in Week 4. Tom Brady has 9 touchdowns in 8 games. Last year, he had 25 touchdowns after 8 games. In 2020, he had 20 touchdowns after 8 games. The whole team is a mess. The coaching staff is a mess. The locker room is a mess. The organization is a mess. And I’m not sure they can get it all cleaned up this season.
THE LOOK AHEAD
On Sunday, another struggling NFC team comes to town in the LA Rams. Like the Bucs, they are 3-5. Like the Bucs, their offense can’t put points on the board, averaging just 297 total yards and 17 points per game. Like the Bucs, they’ve scored more than 24 points just once when they put up 31 points in a Week 2 win against the Falcons. Like the Bucs, their defense can’t stop anyone from scoring, allowing 23 points per game. And like the Bucs, they’re searching for a game to get it turned around. It’s going to be a battle for pride on Sunday. We’ll have to wait to see if the Bucs have any left.
Until then, as always…GO BUCS!!!